We all need flexibility in life. The Department of Defense (DoD) is no exception. Before the talks about calling in the National Guard to respond to protests, the Pentagon was already seeking the flexibility to recall retired service members in case of a national emergency or war.

How Many Retirees Can Be Recalled

The May 4th proposal seeks to allow the Secretary the authority to recall more than 1,000 retirees if a situation arises that warrants it. Currently, the Secretary has the authority to recall no more than 1,000 retired service members. The Pentagon states, “Waiving the 1,000 member limitation on this temporary recall authority and the authority’s expiration date in time of war or of national emergency will increase the Department of Defense’s flexibility and agility in generating forces with the expertise required to respond rapidly and efficiently during such a period.”


The Pentagon defines the situations for recalls as “high demand, low density military capability,” which means “a combat, combat support or service support capability, unit, system, or occupational specialty that the Secretary of Defense determines has funding, equipment, or personnel levels that are substantially below the levels required to fully meet or sustain actual or expected operational requirements set by regional commanders.”

The Goal

As service members retire, our national security loses expertise that can help the country quickly and efficiently respond to a crisis.  The Pentagon cites the need for this measure is due to “the unpredictability of war and national emergencies, such as the COVID 19 pandemic,” and they believe removing the 1,000 member limit waiver “will better posture the Department to respond to unpredictable and rapidly evolving situations.” Funding is not called into question because the Secretary says that the Pentagon “will ensure the amount of recalled retirees does not exceed the number warranted by mission requirements.” Budget needs or requirements will come from existing budgets supplemental sources that are being used during the emergency.

Who’s Eligible

Those who retired before December 2, 2002 need not worry about being recalled. Also, the order is only valid with the consent of the service member. The Pentagon has surveyed relevant career tracks its retired community to check for willingness to return to service. An Army spokesperson noted in March that more than 15,000 service members had responded to say they were interested in supporting pandemic response.

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Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.